2010 Mazda 3 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

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2010 Mazda 3 Buying Advice

The 2010 Mazda 3 is the best car for you if you can see past its Jack Nicholson Joker grille to the high-quality compact car behind it.

Fun to drive and progressive in design, the Mazda 3 has cultivated a dedicated following, and for model-year 2010, it gets highly anticipated revamp. The 2010 Mazda 3 retains the same basic chassis as the 2004-2009 first-generation model, but has controversial new styling. The 2010 Mazda 3 also has a renovated interior and is available with more power and new features. Four-door sedan and four-door hatchback bodies return. The sedan is the more conservative choice for styling, and its separate trunk provides added security from theft. The hatchback’s elongated roofline brings some artsy appeal and a dose of cargo practicality.

The 2010 Mazda 3’s new front end represents Mazda’s shot at a global family face, and it’s already been mocked as exaggerated and grotesque. It looks better in person than in pictures, and it seems more harmonious on the hatchback because it’s visually balanced by the longer rear roofline. In any event, Mazda points out that the grille only appears larger than before. In the interest minimizing aerodynamic drag, its open area is actually 20 percent smaller to ingest just the volume of air needed for combustion and cooling.

2010 Mazda 3 Changes back to top

Styling: It’s recognizably a Mazda 3, even though the 2010’s new body has swept-back sheetmetal licked by swoops, creases, and waves. A high shoulder line and pronounced fender blisters sustain the first-generation’s street-tough flavor. The nose evolves with a drooping aperture flanked by cheeky cavities. Bigger headlamps flow over the leading edge of the hood. The lamps on top-line models are bi-xenon, turn with the steering, and self-level; Mazda says the 2010 3 is the first compact in the U.S. with such high-tech lighting. Mazda also claims the contours of the generously sized cat’s-eye taillamps, along with the shaping of the mirrors and other body details, contributes to a 6 percent reduction in wind noise compared to the first-generation 3. In the interest of improved gas mileage, a bypass flap behind the grille opens at high speeds to assume some of the cooling fan’s burden and thus reduce drag on the engine. The 2010 Mazda 3’s body is slightly longer and wider than the first-generation model, but it does not get a longer wheelbase. That’s the distance between the front and rear axles and helps determine how much interior space is available for passengers. Thus, the 2010 Mazda 3 offers no improvement over the previous generation’s rather tight rear-seat legroom.

Mechanical: Ford Motor Co. has a history of design collaboration with Mazda, and the 2004-2009 generation Mazda 3 boasted a critically acclaimed chassis structure shared with the European Ford Focus. The 2010 Mazda 3 gets an enhanced edition of that structure. It’s more rigid, so it’s quieter and boasts improve handling, which already was among the best in class. Four-cylinder engines again drive the front wheels. Base-level sedans, designated “i” models by Mazda, reuse a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter engine. Uplevel sedans and all hatchbacks are designed “s” models and borrow a 167-horsepower 2.5-liter from the Mazda 6 midsize sedan; this replaces a 156-horsepower 2.3-liter. For transmissions, the 2.0-liter engine comes with a five-speed manual, the 2.5 with a six-speed manual. Both are available with a five-speed automatic. Atop the line is the turbocharged 263-horsepower MazdaSpeed 3, which comes only with a six-speed manual. All 2010 Mazda 3s have front-wheel drive and four-wheel antilock disc brakes. An antiskid system and traction control are optional or standard depending on trim level. The “i” models have 16-inch wheels; “s” versions have 17s. The 2010 MazdaSpeed3 has 18s with low-profile tires, plus a sport-tuned suspension, and larger brakes. It also comes with a limited-slip differential and Mazda’s Torque Management System, both designed to counteract torque steer – an unwanted effect in which high-powered front-wheel-drive cars veer to the side during rapid acceleration.

Features: Enhanced interior amenities are the headliners here. Mazda says it used range-of-motion studies to position the controls. A Multi-Information Display high on the center of the dashboard displays navigation, audio, and trip-computer information. For better thigh support, front seat cushions are extended by nearly an inch compared to first-generation car. Front-seat backrests are 1.4-inches taller, too, and higher grade models get canted upper side bolsters for more restraint during aggressive cornering. Models with power seats have three-position memory, a first for the segment. An interactive lighting system aims to enhance cabin ambience by automatically rising in intensity as occupants enter. Dashboard illumination brightens in a similar manner, and audio and climate switches alter their lighting to acknowledge adjustments. Dual-zone automatic air conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, and heated seats are among 2010 Mazda 3 options. Other available features include satellite radio, a Bose 10-speaker surround sound system, Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones and portable media players, and USB docking for iPods. A keyless entry system includes push-button engine starting. Head-protecting curtain side airbags are standard on every 2010 Mazda 3.

2010 Mazda 3 Prices back to top

Pricing for 2010 Mazda 3 sedans starts with the entry-level “i” SV model. It retails for $15,715 and comes with plastic wheel covers, a stereo with an auxiliary jack, and a 60/40 split/folding rear seatback. Automatic transmission and air conditioning are not available. (Prices listed here include the manufacturer’s mandated $670 destination fee.)

The “i” Sport model adds air conditioning and an outside temperature display. It lists for $16,645 with manual transmission, $17,495 with automatic. Next step up the sedan ladder is the “i” Touring model. It lists for $18,170 with manual transmission, $19,020 with automatic and adds alloy wheels, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth, power locks, remote keyless entry, and antiskid and traction control.

Moving up to the “s” Sport sedan nets the 2.5-liter engine, enhanced grille appearance, 17-inch alloys, rear spoiler, dual chrome-tipped exhausts, mirrors with turn signal lights, sport seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, the “welcome” lighting system, and electroluminescent gauges with the multi-information display. The “s” Sport sedan lists for $19,410 with the six-speed manual and $20,201 with the five-speed automatic.

The “s” Grand Touring sedan has all that, plus the adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated signal mirrors, clear-lens taillamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, and leather upholstery with heated power memory front seats. It’s priced at $22,170 with manual transmission, $22,970 with automatic.

The hatchback lineup begins with “s” Sport trim, which mirrors the “s” Sport sedan. It’s priced at $19,900 with the six-speed manual, $20,700 with the five-speed automatic. Ascend to the “s” Grand Touring hatchback and you’re looking at $22,170 with manual transmission, $22,970 with automatic. This hatch duplicates “s” Grand Touring sedan equipment. Prices for the 2010 MazdaSpeed3 were not announced in time for this report but are anticipated to start around $25,000.

Options, depending on model, include a power moonroof, six-CD changer Bose stereo package ($1,395) and a Tech Package ($1,195), which includes the navigation system and keyless entry and ignition.

2010 Mazda 3 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA estimated fuel economy ratings for the 2010 Mazda 3 rank it among the more efficient cars of this size. The 2010 Mazda 3 “i” sedan rates 25/33 mpg (city/highway) with its five-speed manual transmission and 24/33 with the five-speed automatic. The 2009 Mazda 3 “s” versions rate 22/29 with their six-speed manual and 21/29 with their five-speed automatic. The 2010 MazdaSpeed 3 is rated at 18/25 and is the only model for which Mazda requires 91-octane premium fuel.

2010 Mazda 3 Release Date back to top

The 2010 Mazda 3 goes on sale in May 2009, sedans first, followed quickly by hatchbacks. The 2010 MazdaSpeed3 will be released later in the year.

2010 Mazda 3 Competition back to top

2010 Honda Civic: Even in the last year of its design cycle, this is still the class of the compact-car class. It has tomorrowland styling inside and out and a broad lineup that includes high-mileage mainstays, a high-tech hybrid, and a high-performance 197-horse Si edition. Quality construction and top resale values ice the cake. Today’s Civic sedan and coupe bowed as 2007 models. Their next full redesign hits for model-year 2011. Base-price range for 2010 Honda Civics is about $15,800-$27,500. Fuel economy ratings span 21/29 mpg (city/highway) to 26/36 for gas models; the Civic Hybrid rates 40/45.   

2010 Toyota Corolla: The safe choice, with low-key looks and low-voltage performance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Note that the Corolla sedan shares its basic structure with the Toyota Matrix, a wagon cousin that runs with a slightly wilder crowd. The current-generation Toyota Corolla was introduced for the 2009 model year and its next full redesign is not likely before 2014. Base price range for 2010 models is about $16,100-$21,000. Fuel economy ratings range from 22/29 to 27/35.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta and Golf: These are aspirational cars for many compact-class buyers, and maybe for Mazda, too. The Jetta is essentially a four-door sedan take on the Golf’s two- and four-door hatchback design. Both deliver genuine German engineering and feel like they should cost a lot more. Too bad VW owners report more mechanical problems than their Asian-brand counterparts. Fully redesigned Golfs – formerly called Rabbits -- come to America for the 2010 model year, with new Jettas due for model-year 2011. These are the only compacts to offer diesel engines. For 2010, Jetta base prices range from about $18,000-$25,300. Estimated 2010 Golf base prices are in the $16,000-$25,000 neighborhood. Fuel economy with gas engines is in the 21/30-mpg range, with diesels hitting 30/41.